Ending a tenancy legally

 

Section 21 Notice

Last week, with your other blog editor Liz, I went to a training course run by the National Landlords Association on how you can legally end a tenancy by serving your tenant with a section 21 notice.

 
The course was delivered Mary Latham, who you will know if you’ve attended any of our Sandwell Landlord forums. Mary, who was excellent as always, stared the session off by saying that the overwhelming majority of section 21 notices that get served are done incorrectly, meaning the landlord actually has no legal right to end the tenancy. They only ‘get away with it’ because no-one is picking up on their errors.

 
You might think that sounds like an exaggeration. Mary was more than able to show that it wasn’t!

 
This is becoming more and more important as tenants and people giving them advice or acting on their behalf are becoming increasingly likely to challenge incorrectly served or invalid notices, partly as a result of the new Homelessness Reduction Act. Increasingly, landlords are finding their actions are being scrutinised and challenged.

 
Here are just some of the things that can mean a section 21 notice is invalid and you can’t get rid of a tenant.

 
• You did not follow all procedures correctly about showing your tenant the EPC for the property before the tenancy was signed. You must make sure you understand the law here and follow it. This is a nasty one you can easily be caught out on.
• You did not issue (or cannot prove that you issued) the tenant with a copy of the government publication ‘How to rent’ at the very start of the tenancy.
• You did not follow correctly the procedures for registering a deposit.
• You used the wrong form (simple – but it happens).                                                                    • You served notice too early – which means it doesn’t count and you have to start again.

 
This is certainly not the full list and it is definitely over-simplified. Including all of the posisible reasons and all of the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ would make this post unreadably long – so you need to do your own research or get advice, but be aware –more legislation comes into effect this October, which tightens up the existing rules considerably.

 
If you get something wrong you can potentially end up in a situation where you are legally prevented from serving any section 21 notice – meaning you can only end the tenancy by serving a valid section 8 notice. And you can only do that if you have the right grounds in place and you can prove that in court if challenged.

 
One side note: If you noticed that I have shown the bad habit of not explaining what an abbreviation stands for above – in this case ‘EPC’ – well, that’s deliberate. If you don’t know what an EPC is, (and we think a few landlords don’t) then you really are in trouble and should get googling right now.

 
We do know that most Sandwell Landlords and certainly those who read this blog are professionally minded and keen to do the right thing. The problem though is that the law can be complex and contains all sorts of things that can catch you out if you’re not prepared. I should also stress that we certainly don’t want to encourage landlords to end tenancies unless they really need to. We don’t want to see landlords with voids and we don’t want people leaving their homes unnecessarily. If you have a problem with a tenant, its far better to address it as early as possible before it escalates and you find that your relationship has broken down.

 
Managing a tenancy well often comes down to landlords having the right education and support. So (and yes – this is a shameless piece of advertising) – you might want to think about signing up to become an accredited landlord with the Midland Landlord Accreditation Scheme (MLAS).

 
MLAS is sponsored by various local authorities, including Sandwell and provides training and support to landlords who join. There is an upfront cost of £150 but that gets you a place on a training course and various other benefits. This is a personal opinion but I think its well worth it.

 
For more information, contact MLAS directly mailto:talk@mlas.org.uk

 
And one final thought in case any bad landlord stumbles across this post – remember that evicting a tenant illegally or harassment of a tenant are criminal offences. Although it’s very rare, landlords have been sent to prison for illegal evictions.

 
Oliver

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IMPORTANT

Do you use our landlord portal?

 

Landlord portal

If you are a current user of our landlord portal – please be aware that we will soon be carrying out a review of user access.

 
All users of the portal will sent a review form in the next week or two asking them to confirm some basic details. It is essential that you return your form to have continued access to the portal. Failure to return your form will mean that your access will be terminated.

 
So please look out for your form.

 
Oliver

Dodgy utilities

Dodgy utilities

Here’s a rare thing . . . a post from your other blog editor, Liz Mooney from our Housing Quality Team who has been out and about on some inspections.

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We’ve been carrying out some joint inspections with the Police and the utility companies to check electrical and gas safety in residential properties linked to commercial properties. Typically, but not exclusively that’s flats above shops.

 
One issue that cropped up is that some of the homes inspected, did not have a separate power supply from the commercial premises. This does not fit with required standards. Any home should have its own separately controllable power supply.

 
And there are some other serious issues involved too; including, a lack of proper inspections (such as the compulsory annual gas safety check) illegal resale of power from the landlord to the tenant, unsafe adaptions to equipment and the theft of power.

 
We know that any landlord reading this blog is highly unlikely to be involved in anything dubious and more generally most landlords in our borough are good landlords who are keen to do things properly, but the safety implications of not getting everything right with your power supply are massive. So we always want to remind landlords how seriously we take gas and electrical safety. We will do everything we can to make sure that standards, regulations and the law are kept to.

 
If you stick to the basics, you can’t go wrong. Make sure you keep up to date on your annual gas safety checks (which are a legal requirement) and we recommend you get a full electrical safety check by a qualified professional on your properties at least every five years. You should also carry out your own visual safety check at the end of every tenancy. You can also find useful advice about general safety standards here on gov.uk. (And do also bear in mind that there can be different rules about power supply for Houses of Multiple occupation).

 
It shouldn’t need saying – but we’ll say it anyway. If you have any doubt whatsoever about the safety of the power supply to your property – don’t hesitate, get a professional to check it out straight away.

 
And for that tiny minority of landlords involved in dodgy practices – we’re on the look out for you. If you are doing something wrong, the consequences and penalties can be severe.

 
And one last thought – remember that since April this year, you cannot create a new tenancy ti let out a property that has an energy performance rating below ‘E.’

 
Liz

Newsletter just out

Spring newsletter 2018

We’ve just released the new Sandwell Revenues and Benefits newsletter. It includes articles on:
• HMO licensing
• Landlords and GDPR
• Finding a tenant with our Housing Choices team
• Section 21 notices and ending a tenancy
• Energy performance certificates

 
And more…

 
Download a copy: Spring newsletter

 

Oliver